Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Crowning Glory: Zaya Younan’s Blueprint for El Septimo’s Seventh Sense Cigar Legacy

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Interview with Zaya Younan, El Septimo Cigars

Lincoln Salazar (LS): Let’s start with a little bit about El Septimo cigars. Tell us about how the brand started.

Zaya Younan (ZY): Well, the brand started back in 2000 in Geneva, Switzerland. It was founded by a French winemaker who decided to move to Switzerland and produce ultra-premium cigars. These cigars use the finest tobacco, aged for an extended period, and incorporate the best tobacco from various regions worldwide to create something exceptional.

LS: Interesting. So, they started in 2000, and the first cigar was released in 2005. What was the market like during that time?

ZY: From 2005 until we purchased the company, they mainly produced cigars for the Middle East and Europe. Their limited market share included a customer base of royal families that bought their production years in advance. They were making a limited number of cigars, close to only 100,000 sticks a year, primarily for royal families in the Middle East and Europe.

LS: That’s fascinating. What was your first exposure to El Septimo?

ZY: My first exposure was in the United States. The very first El Septimo cigar given to me was from Saudi’s royal family. Back then, it used to be called “Cigars for Kings.”

LS: Tell us more about where the cigars are made currently and the meaning behind the El Septimo brand.

ZY: The cigars are assembled in Costa Rica. We chose Costa Rica because some of the best rollers from Cuba work there, attracted by higher wages and a stable environment. The high altitude in Costa Rica also allows for extended fermentation without concerns about diseases. We use the best tobacco from regions such as the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, and Brazil. El Septimo means “the seventh,” symbolizing the ultimate feeling of satisfaction associated with the number seven.

LS: That’s a unique perspective. How does smoking El Septimo help achieve the seventh sense?

ZY: We believe smoking El Septimo helps you reach your seventh sense, the ultimate feeling of satisfaction. That’s what the name comes from.

LS: Fascinating insight. Tell us a bit about the factories where your cigars are currently assembled.

ZY: We have two factories, both in Costa Rica, where the cigars are assembled. When we talk about making cigars, it’s not just the final assembly; it involves the entire process from planting the seed, growing and harvesting the tobacco, to fermentation and aging. The final assembly happens in Costa Rica, where we have two separate plants. The tobacco comes from Costa Rica and other regions we mentioned.

LS: Could you elaborate on the process of making an El Septimo cigar and what sets it apart from other cigars in the industry?

ZY: More important than manufacturing is the entire process, from where it’s planted to how it’s farmed and harvested. We use precision farming, a technology we’ve been involved with for 35 years. We select locations for tobacco based on soil testing. We inspect every batch of leaf visually and scientifically, ensuring it meets our standards. We analyze the leaf’s color, uniformity, and overall quality before purchasing it.

LS: How do you maintain the quality of the tobacco throughout the process?

ZY: We age the leaves for a minimum of five to fifteen years after they reach a minimum of five years of age. The blending process is crucial, and we have two sets of blenders—one who blends by smelling and the other by smoking. We ship the blends worldwide for focus group studies, getting feedback from consumers in a controlled environment. This helps us finalize the blend before turning it into a cigar. After making the cigar, we ferment it for a minimum of 12 months, sometimes as long as five years, before releasing it to consumers.

Tobacco Agriculture plant field with countryside beautiful mountain hill background.

LS: That’s quite a meticulous process. What makes the El Septimo cigar stand out in terms of flavor and experience?

ZY: The meticulous process and attention to detail contribute to the unique flavor and experience of El Septimo cigars. From the selection of the best tobacco from various regions to the careful blending process and consumer feedback, we ensure a premium and satisfying smoking experience.

LS: Fantastic. Tell us about the blending process and how you ensure the final product meets the expectations of consumers.

ZY: The blending process involves combining selections from different regions. We have blenders with sensitive noses and experienced smokers who work together to create blends. These blends undergo focus group studies worldwide to gather feedback from diverse consumers. This ensures that the final product meets the expectations and preferences of cigar enthusiasts.

LS: It sounds like a comprehensive approach to delivering a premium cigar experience. So, with your extensive range of blends, could you highlight one of the top three blends and share some details about what makes it unique?

ZY: First of all, the recipe isn’t as simple as saying we have tobacco from the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua. What makes the recipe is how you blend them together, how you age them, how the tobacco is grown. It’s a far more complex process than what the industry is used to talking about.

Some in the industry say they like Nicaraguan or Dominican tobacco, but by themselves, they mean nothing. Nicaraguan tobacco, for example, is too harsh, too aggressive, with a lot of nicotine. Dominican tobacco, on the other hand, is lighter and more mellow. So, we use a combination of tobaccos from various regions to create a perfect blend. We have 46 different blends, and each cigar is unique.

LS: That’s quite a diverse range and it’s clear that El Septimo takes a unique approach to crafting cigars. How do you respond to the perception that Cuban cigars are considered the best in the industry?

ZY: The perception that Cuban cigars are the best is entirely wrong. The New World, using technology, data, analysis, and investing in quality control, has created cigars far superior to Cuban tobacco. The myth about Cuban cigars being the best is outdated. The New World’s approach, backed by innovation and investment, produces cigars of higher quality.

LS: Your emphasis on innovation and quality control is evident. What message would you like to convey to consumers about choosing and enjoying El Septimo cigars?

ZY: Don’t worry too much about the specific recipe or origin of the tobacco. Like buying shoes, you don’t ask about the source of leather or wood. Cut, light, and smoke the cigar. If you like it, continue enjoying it; if not, explore other options. We want to change how people perceive and enjoy cigars, educating them on the unique experience El Septimo offers.

LS: Thank you for sharing these insights, Zaya. Given your success in various industries, what motivated you to venture into the cigar industry with El Septimo?

ZY: I’ve been a cigar enthusiast since a young age, and being in the automotive industry, smoking cigars became a part of the culture. About two and a half years ago, I decided to buy El Septimo. I had been supporting the brand for 40 years as a consumer. El Septimo was known for catering exclusively to royal families in Europe and the Middle East, and the production was always sold out. The only way for me to enjoy the product was to buy the entire company, and I’m glad I did. Now, El Septimo is one of the fastest-growing premium cigar companies globally.

LS: It’s fascinating how personal passion led you to acquire El Septimo. Can you share some insights into the current market trends and challenges in the premium cigar industry?

ZY: The premium cigar industry is growing, and there’s a trend toward handmade, high-quality cigars. Consumers are looking for unique experiences, and El Septimo fits well into this trend. However, challenges include regulatory issues, taxes, and anti-smoking sentiment in some regions. We focus on providing a unique product and experience to overcome these challenges.

LS: With your extensive background in technology and innovation, how do you incorporate these aspects into the traditional art of cigar making at El Septimo?

ZY: Technology plays a crucial role in our precision farming methods for selecting the best tobacco. Our soil analysis and selection process involve cutting-edge technology. Additionally, we use data, analysis, and invest heavily in quality control to ensure a superior product. While cigar making is a traditional craft, we believe in leveraging technology to enhance and perfect the process.

LS: El Septimo has seen significant growth under your leadership. What are your plans for the future of the brand, and how do you envision its trajectory?

ZY: We aim to continue El Septimo’s growth globally. We plan to expand further into Asia, Europe, and the United States. We’re also developing new blends and products to meet the diverse preferences of consumers. Our goal is to make El Septimo a well-known and respected brand worldwide.

LS: It’s exciting to hear about your plans for the brand’s expansion. What message would you like to convey to enthusiasts and potential consumers of El Septimo cigars?

ZY: I want consumers to focus on enjoying the experience of smoking El Septimo cigars. We are committed to delivering a unique and exceptional product. Cut, light, and smoke the cigar; if you like it, continue enjoying it. We’re here to change the perception of cigars and provide a luxurious and enjoyable experience.

LS: Thank you, Zaya, for providing such valuable insights into El Septimo’s journey and future endeavors. It’s been a pleasure to learn more about your vision for the brand and the premium cigar industry.

ZY: Thank you, it’s been my pleasure. I appreciate the opportunity to share the story of El Septimo.

LS:  Zaya, let’s rewind a bit. Can you share with us the story of your first cigar experience, the one that kicked off your journey into the world of cigars?

ZY: Absolutely, Lincoln. My first cigar experience dates back to 1983. I was working for General Motors, and they threw a party for me to celebrate a new concept I had developed. At the age of 20, I smoked my first cigar, a Cuban cigar from Habano. It was a robust and strong cigar, but as they say, when you’re young and strong, you can handle a powerful cigar, and the stronger the cigar, the more flavor it has. It was a memorable start to my journey into the world of cigars.

LS: Fascinating! So, you’ve had this long-standing relationship with cigars, including Cuban cigars. When did you start noticing changes in the quality of Cuban cigars, and how did that influence your journey into the cigar industry?

ZY: Around 1995, I began to notice a significant drop in the quality of Cuban cigars. The rush in production, driven by the country’s economic needs, led to a decline in quality. They were fast-tracking cultivation, aging, and fermentation processes to bring products to market quickly. This was a turning point for me, and it fueled my desire to contribute to the industry by creating cigars that focused on quality and taste.

LS: Fast forward to El Septimo. In the next three to five years, where do you envision El Septimo, and what are your aspirations for the brand?

ZY: We’re on track to become the biggest premium cigar maker globally. We’ve made an impressive start, currently operating in 58 countries, and our growth is accelerating. In two years, I see us not just as a premium cigar manufacturer but the largest one in the world. El Septimo has gained unprecedented recognition in just two and a half years, and I’m confident we’ll continue this trajectory.

LS: That’s ambitious and exciting. Moving to a more personal note, Zaya, what legacy do you hope to leave, whether it’s a personal legacy or one for El Septimo?

ZY: I’ve always aimed to be remembered more for the products I’ve contributed to the world than for my name. People tend to forget names, but they remember the impact and contribution to society. Whether it’s developing the airbag, VoIP technology, or premium cigars with El Septimo, I want my legacy to be associated with meaningful contributions that enhance people’s lives.

LS: A profound perspective, Zaya. As we conclude, is there anything else you’d like to share or add?

ZY: From time to time, people tell me they appreciate how El Septimo is spreading worldwide, elevating and disrupting the industry. I want to clarify that we’re not here to disrupt but to correct flaws in the industry, ensuring our products meet the highest quality and taste standards. That’s our focus.

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Lincoln Salazar
Lincoln Salazar
Lincoln Salazar is the CEO/Publisher of Enthusiast Report. With over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry, Salazar presents Enthusiast Report which is a broader, modern vision of luxury and lifestyle.

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